Messages in Bottles

Social networking isn’t optional for writers these days. No point bitching about that. But I’ve been noticing something odd lately on both Twitter and Facebook and I wonder if it’s a more recent development or if it’s been there all along and I just didn’t care enough to notice.

Anyone who knows me personally knows that my sense of humor is very referential. I’m an in-joke kinda girl. Even if I’ve only met you once, the next time I see you I’ll probably make some comment about something that happened when we met. It’s just the way my mind works. In my closest inner circle, I trust that if I quote some obscure, terrible movie, my friends will instantly get the joke. All I have to do is say the words “Long Handled Saucepan” or “Iguana Boy” to certain people and they’ll fall over laughing.

Now, obviously, many of these really obscure in-jokes are going to go over most people’s heads. That’s fine and to be expected. But what’s been bugging me lately is more a generalized lack of continuity in the social networking stream.

Example: I’m working on a Supernatural tie-in novel right now. Supernatural is a television show about two brothers named Sam and Dean Winchester who drive around the country in a 67 Impala and fight monsters, ghosts and demons. So naturally, I’m tweeting about Supernatural a lot. About the characters and my book and cracking jokes relating to the show.

Almost every day, I get people responding to these posts with confusion or surprise. Apparently, I have to explain that I’m writing a Supernatural tie-in novel not just every day, but in every individual post. Which, when you only have 140 characters, is kinda tough.

This also seems to be true for the series of “pulp tips” I’ve been posting. I assumed that people would understand that I was talking about work-for-hire writing, not my more personal work, because work-for-hire is what I’m working on (and tweeting about a billion times a day) right now. Man, was I wrong.

I noticed this phenomenon on Flickr too. People never look at my photo sets in order, as a series. They look at each snap like it was the only one in the universe. So if I post a series of photos taken in Scranton, PA, every single photo better be labeled “In Scranton.” And forget about captions that refer to a previous shot in the series. No one has seen it. Or they’ll see it later, after they’ve already forgotten about the other photo.

So what I’m starting to understand is that every single post, every tweet, every photo is essentially an only child. Every utterance or image must be completely self contained, a stand-alone. Sure there are some readers who follow the larger continuity of my stream, but the majority do not.

This is a real challenge for me, because that’s just not the way I think. But I obviously can’t expect the interwebs to change to suit me, so I need to find some kind of happy medium. A way to include readers who only see one out of every hundred posts without boring the ones who see them all (or myself.) And without becoming one of those people whose tweets all read like press releases.

So, fellow writers, how do you deal with this apparent lack of continuity? Or do you not have this problem? Readers, do you follow every single post from your favorite authors? (I do.) Do you ever feel lost or annoyed with tweets that expect you to be following along with the previous posts?

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